Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Emigration of the Aging

The Emigration of the Aging
JOSÉ HUGO FERNÁNDEZ | Miami | 22 de Junio de 2016 - 10:41 am.

Certain social science scholars advise us not to view with pessimism the
accelerated ageing process affecting Cuban society today. They even
advance the (laughable) thesis that such a process is the result of a
high level of development. It is not possible to know whether they do
this out of laziness, cynicism, ignorance, obsequiousness, or all of
them together. Nor is it important. What matters, because it is
disgraceful, it is that Cuba is fast losing its breadwinners, who are
leaving at an alarming rate.

Save for said scholars, we all know that the main reason, though not the
only one, for this ageing phenomenon is that for half a century Cuba's
young people have been fleeing the island, in large numbers, and
enthusiastically, generation after generation. We also know that with
the new immigration laws, plus the perniciously uncertain outlook the
generals are generating, this phenomenon is on the rise.

However, neither the scholars studying this subject, or almost anyone
else, for that matter, seems to be interested in the stampede of
seniors, a drama as knotty as that of the Island's disappearing youth.

Those who predict that within a couple of decades our population may be
the oldest in the Americas, overtaking Uruguay and Argentina, may be
right. But perhaps they err when they calculate that by 2025 the number
of those over age 60 in Cuba will hit 2.9 million: 26% of the
population. Unless they come to Miami to count them, for I fear that by
then there will be as few old people as there are young people.

The calamity is of another kind, in this case, but will prove no less

While the shortage of young people represents a severe obstacle
hampering development on the island, the migratory flood of seniors,
even if it is a derivative of the youth's flight, represents a conflict
in and of itself; perhaps not as dramatic in economic or material terms,
but in terms of moral and spiritual health.

Seen from this angle, it could be a malady with far-reaching
repercussions. No one doubts any longer that young people have good
reasons to be leaving Cuba. Neither is there any doubt as to the
regime's reasons for fomenting this. Both gain from their exodus. But
will these gains be proportional to those obtained by seniors? Who is
truly concerned today and who spends his time contemplating the upsides
and downsides of emigration for older Cubans?

They usually leave to be with their children and grandchildren. Also, in
most cases, they do so to lend a hand with household affairs, take care
of the children and the sick, cook, run errands, help around the house
... reinforcements in the battle of the daily grind.

On the home stretch of life, after an extensive period of work and
different activities, and having wasted their best years racked by wont,
and making useless sacrifices, these people are forced to abandon the
places they know, their customs, their culture, their rules of
coexistence and, for many, even the ties and relationships they spent
their lives culvitating, to start again from scratch, overcoming their
nostalgia and struggling with infirmities. And while many are resolute
in their decisions to do so (at times even somewhat hopeful, seeking to
heal families fractured by the Castro regime), the truth is that for
them the adventure is undertaken with more resignation than excitement.
There are even cases in which emigration is approached as a kind of

There must not be many elderly people who migrate around the world, and
even fewer who do so for the reasons Cubans do. And this is a fact I
suspect Cuba's learned doctors of the social sciences will not be
looking into further, whether because they are not allowed to, or it is
not in their own interest. It is perfectly understandable that young
people from here and old people from there aspire to recover and
reconstruct their lost households. But the phenomenon remains a very
serious anomaly, one hardly mitigated by the generosity with which
American taxpayers support the arrival of our elders in their land,
facilitating their access to health insurance and other benefits.

It is not good living conditions (which fidelismo never gave them) that
these seniors lack here. However, they will lack something that is
undoubtedly much more essential: everything they thought was theirs
until a catastrophic dictatorship tore up their families and drove them
into limbo, with their minds and souls split between two sides of the
Straits of Florida.

Source: The Emigration of the Aging | Diario de Cuba -

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